Hyper-local news; does it work?

 

As we all know the local and regional press have been facing problems since the introduction of the internet and the new technologies that come with the digital world. Over the past couple of days I have been looking at two articles on the Guardian’sGreenslade Blog” to do with hyper-local news websites.

The first of the articles is by Ross Hawkes the founder of Lichfield Live, exploring what we mean by hyper-local and why it works. He suggests that “patch reporters” are a dying breed in the traditional media as a lot of the time journalists are too remote from their audiences, there isn’t enough interaction with the local community and therefore those communities cannot be expected to trust their local journalists. This is where hyper-local news comes into play in making the local media more accessible to the communities that they are writing about. Hyper-local publishers have the opportunity to gain an emotional connection with their audiences via the use of social media such as Twitter allowing journalists to interact with people in real-time making them the centre of the local social circle. Journalists can become known and trusted by the local community via their physical presence that so many big, traditional media publishers are missing out on by being so far away from the local community. Hawkes shows in his article how the hyper-local newsrooms work with technology rather than against it. For example, there is the opportunity to set up a newsroom anywhere nowadays with technology on our side but the downfall is that a lot of journalists and publishers aren’t utilising this.

The second article I looked at is by Richard Jones, the founder of hyper-local website Saddlworth news. Jones also points out the positives of hyper-local news websites referring to why he set up the website as public-spirited. He says that when he moved to the area their was little news coverage but the area had such a distinct identity that he chose to do something himself. One of the positives he noted was that he could publish stories faster than other outlet meaning that his number of unique users doubled overnight. Jones also mentions the negatives that are involved in creating hyper-local news websites, the main one being money.

I’m a journalist, not a salesman. And I found selling ads on Saddleworth News difficult. I think this was partly down to my own lack of selling skills, and partly because most business owners weren’t used to internet advertising.

It’s obvious that all kinds of local media are experiencing economic difficulties in a time where users can access news online for free. I think it’s evident that the local media needs to find a way of using the internet and technology to it’s advantage just like the successful national media publishers have done. The House of Commons “Future for local and regional media” report states that hyper-local news websites are positive for these reasons:

-Valuable service to community

-Interacting with the readership

-The exchange of local information

-Maintaining a local identity and discussing local issues

In my opinion, after reading the two articles and the report, I can see why hyper-local news websites are becoming popular and why they are developing. They seem to do a much better job than the traditional local media in relaying news, events and stories to the local community because they are embracing technology and interacting with their readers making sure that the community remains feeling like a tight-knit social circle. Maybe the traditional local news could take a leaf out of the hyper-local book?

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The future of journalism

This week I have been looking at James Curran’s literature on the future of journalism in Technology Foretold and The Future of Journalism; within these two texts Curran looks at previous predictions about how technology will change society and journalism.

In Technology Foretold, James Curran highlights how the expectation and predictions surrounding technology in Britain in the 80’s and 90’s were rather far-fecthed and indeed, wrong. Leading industry experts, the media itself and the public believed that changes within technology would lead to forms of old media being completely wiped out and journalism and society would change dramatically. Kenneth Baker, the technology minister at the time, said that Cable TV would have “more far-reaching effects than the industrial revolution 200 years ago.” This highlights just how high expectation was and how oblivious people were to the reality. In reality, only 1% of homes had cable in 1989 and only 13% in 2008. This fact alone shows that the hype that surrounded this new technology was unnecessary and misplaced; also making it clear that you can’t really predict the future and what or how technology will effect journalism.

However, Curran also shows that it would naive to think that the ever evolving world of technology will not have some effect on the journalism industry. In The Future of Journalism he highlights the fact that the internet has had an effect on paid journalism jobs and a number of redundancies have been made as a result. For example, between 2008 and 2009, 106 local newspapers closed in Britain and The Trinity Mirror reduced its staff by 1200. Although this suggests that the internet has hindered old media in Britain, Curran is also keen to point out that new medias have been affected too as ITV had to cut 1000 jobs in the same year. James Curran explores all arguments within his articles and gives a well-balanced point of view.

I think that he makes it clear that you cannot predict the future and we can’t really see what direction journalism will go in, the world is constantly changing and technology is constantly evolving. Investors, advertisers and the public will have constantly evolving opinions and needs and the media can’t always predict those needs.

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